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Originally, discrimination meant differential treatment. Discrimination can be both positive and negative. Thus, the General Act on Equal Treatment deals with disadvantage and not discrimination.

Discrimination is often used in this sense in everyday language. A clear, that is direct or open, disadvantage is present, when a person is treated unjustifiably worse compared to what someone else in the same position or situation experiences, has experiences, or would experience.


A woman earns less than her male colleague, even though they have the same responsibilities.

Forms of discrimination and the accompanying circumstances are diverse. Discrimination can happen knowingly and unknowingly. In everyday life, one encounters marginalizing behavior, prejudices, and derogatory expressions from individual people or groups directed towards people, who differ from them by one or more of the characteristics listed in the General Act on Equal Treatment. Although they may appear neutral, institutional or structural rules, standards, or behavioral patterns can directly disadvantage individuals based on the color of their skin, their origin, sex, religion or ideology, disability, age, or sexual orientation.


  1. Without a reason based on working hours, a standard regulations does not allow part-time employees to receive certain benefits. If most of the part-time employees in a company are women, then a direct disadvantage based on sex, exists.
  2. If a native German speaker is sought for a job in an information center, in order to advise German and foreign guests, a number of individuals with another ethnic background are directly excluded and at a disadvantage. Thus the requirement "good to very good German skills" – not German as a native language – is a fair requirement.

Forms of Discrimination

The General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG) follows a horizontal approach on the basis of human rights. This means that the characteristics named in the act such as ethnic background, sex, religion or ideology, disability, age, or sexual orientation are equally protected and the hierarchization of discriminatory characteristics, or concerned groups, should be prevented. For every person possesses multiple characteristics - for example age and sex, so that discrimination overlaps or takes on a specific shape, and can lead to so called multiple discrimination.


If undesired behavior aims at violating or violates the dignity of another person and an environment for this behavior develops, that is distinguished by intimidation, hostility, humiliation, degredation, or insults, the law speaks of harassment. Harassment on the grounds of a characteristic listed in the General Act on Equal Treatment is illegal.


The term bullying (de) is commonly used, often flippantly. According to a definition by the German-Swedish industrial-organizational psychologist, Heinz Leymann, bullying is a negative communicative treatment of one or more persons, that is directed towards someone and occurs over a longer period of time (for at least six months, and at least once a week) and characterizes the relationship between offender and victim. Bullying is harassment, under the AGG, if it is because of one of the characteristics named in the act. Instructions to discriminate against someone are also discriminatory.


Stalking (de) is a form of harassment, that very often takes place in the public sphere, since it can spread widely through the use of new media (internet, texting, email, chat rooms, ...).

Racism and Xenophobia

About 35,000 foreigners currently live in Aachen (about 14 percent of the Aachen population); about 5,200 international students are enrolled at RWTH Aachen (about 15 percent of the university's student body). It can be said that foreign students, researchers, and employees at RWTH Aachen are clearly underrepresented. In March 2009, RWTH Aachen signed the Charta der Vielfalt (Charta of Diversity), thereby documenting its desire to increase the diversity within the university. Nevertheless, reservation against other with a different ethnic background exist and and can lead to discrimination – often in a subtle form. We therefore ask you to please notify us if you are affected by discrimination or witness it in your surroundings at the university. If you are affected by or witness discrimination outside of the university, you can contact the Aachen Gleichbehandlungsbüro Aachen, with which RWTH Aachen's Equal Opportunities Office cooperates.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harrassment is undesired sexual acts, that are aimed at or bring about the violation of dignity.


Male employees make lewd remarks in the presence of your female colleague. Furthermore, they send her emails with pornographic content.


Awareness & Recognition

At RWTH Aachen, we value fair, partner-like contact with one another – as is recorded in the Handbook for Fair Behavior (Leitlinie für partnerschaftliches Verhalten, 2001) and other documents. However it is realistic to assume that individuals or groups at the university are also discriminated against, which can occur in a variety of ways. Problem cases and misconduct cannot be ignored, made taboo, or be swept under the rug, since none of these actions improves the siutation, and the danger exists, that unfair conduct will be become acceptable.

For a Culture of Awareness

In the interest of a culture of awareness, cases of discrimination should absolutely be recorded, regardless whether or not one is the victim of discrimination or witness discrimination at the university. Problem areas at the university can only be identified and appropriate measures taken or developed, when cases of discrimination are recorded and documented.

The Equal Opportunities Office, which guarantees that each case is handled anonymously and confidentially, will develop and initiate suitable preventative measures on the basis of a statistical survey – carried out in accordance with the necessary data protection.

You can decide whether you want to pursue further advising or, if possible, take legal action. The RWTH Aachen Equal Opportunities Office is connected with other advising offices within and outside of the university, and can put your suggestions into practive or develop them with you.